IDK: Guide to Tween Slang

tweens on the phone
Observe the natives in their natural habitat.
Jack Hollingsworth/Thinkstock

If you think "groovy" is still a buzzword, you've got a lot of catching up to do. You might not know whether to LOL or say IDK, IDC or even OMG when you overhear your kid talking or see the crazily abbreviated text messages he's sending to friends.

But if you want to have any idea what he's actually saying, you need to get down with the lingo. Growing up in an age of texts and Tweets, tweens have a different way of communicating, which is why we're here to give you the 411 on their slang. Sure, a lot of it seems redonkulous, but so did "cool" back in the day.


Regardless of how you feel about tween slang, you're probably more concerned about deciphering it than complaining about how ridiculous it sounds. To help close the generation gap, we're going to examine some common abbreviations and acronyms to help you make sense of your kid's seemingly jumbled half-speech. We'll also bring you up to date on the current lingo so you'll know why "poppins" has nothing to do with popcorn and why your son's constant talk of birds isn't related to fowl.

On the next page, learn how modern tweens are spelling "cool." (Hint: It doesn't start with the letter c.)


Common Tween Slang

tween boy wearing sneakers
Say it with us: Those are some really kewl rides, home skillet.

Every generation changes the usage of certain words and comes up with its own unique lingo. In the beginning of the 20th century, men sought to be dandy, but by the time their grandsons were coming of age, hip was in. A few decades later, everyone just wanted to be cool.

Of course, each generation doesn't come up with an entirely new lexicon. Today, for example, cool is still, well, cool. Modern tween hipsters have updated the spelling of the word to "kewl," but many other common words and phrases have changed meanings, or at least taken on additional ones.


Most tweens' dialogue is peppered with conjoined and repurposed words. Some common slang words are:

  • 2 cents - opinion or advice
  • bird - girl
  • bounce - leave
  • cheddar - money or cash
  • chillaxin - hanging out; a combination of "chilling" and "relaxing"
  • deuces - bye
  • dip - bye
  • fives - laying claim to an empty chair or space for at least five minutes
  • home skillet - friend
  • laters - see you later
  • poppins - perfect, like Mary Poppins
  • requestion - a request that is also a question
  • rides - sneakers
  • tope - excellent or very cool; a combination of "tight" and "dope"

As you can see, some tween slang words are easier to understand than others. "Laters" and "2 cents" make a fair amount of sense, but "bird" is less obvious to us.

The takeaway here? Don't be afraid to ask your tween for an explanation if you don't understand something he says. If he responds to your texted request to come home for dinner with a bunch of letters and numbers, get clarification -- or Google his message to get the translation. (That means look it up on the Internet!)


Tween Texting Abbreviations

Yes, modern tweens love abbreviations, acronyms and phonetic spellings, but they still know the difference between colloquial speech and proper English. Rachel Robertson, a tweenager from south Georgia, admits that while she and her friends frequently use slang in private conversations and messages, they know there's a time and place for it. She says, "We don't care what we sound like while texting because it doesn't really matter. It's not like it's for a school paper or anything. Most of us don't talk that way to teachers, parents or authority figures -- just to our peers."

Even if your tween isn't as courteous as Rachel and speaks to you exclusively in what sounds like letters and half words, you'll probably find that the lingo really isn't all that hard to understand once you know what to look for. Tween slang often follows a pattern of abbreviated ease, most of which stems from frequently repeated words and phrases that are broken down for brevity's sake. For example, take the ever-popular Internet abbreviation "LOL." Its origins are simple: Instead of typing "laugh out loud" every time you chuckle while communicating online, it makes sense to just type LOL. That's why this word has arguably become the most common and accepted Internet abbreviation. Tweens, however, have taken LOL to a whole new level by incorporating it into their daily speech. LOL may be used as an exclamation (LOL!) or a statement (I'm LOLing right now!).


Recently, a changed spelling of LOL has been used as its own separate word: lawl. It's a pseudo-phonetic spelling of the acronym, though that doesn't mean you should expect all the words you hear your tween speak or see him type to have multiple other spellings or variations. If you're unsure about the definition of a word you read in your child's messages, and an acronym doesn't immediately come to mind, try speaking it aloud. You'll probably feel silly, but hearing the word might reveal its meaning.

Some commonly abbreviated teen slang words are:

  • 411 - information
  • BF - boyfriend
  • BF4L - best friends for life
  • BRB - be right back
  • G2G - got to go
  • GF - girlfriend
  • H - hardcore
  • IDC - I don't care
  • IDK - I don't know
  • My B - my bad
  • NM - nothing much
  • OMG - oh my god!
  • PAS - parent over shoulder (may also be MAS or DAS -- mom or dad over shoulder)
  • ROTFL - roll on the floor laughing
  • TTYL - talk to you later
  • U - you

Some phonetically spelled slang words include:

  • amirite - Am I right? (This is more of a declarative statement than a question -- asking for affirmation for the obvious.)
  • gr8 - great
  • l8tr - later
  • mhmm - OK, whatever
  • noice - very nice/excellent
  • ohaithar - Oh, hi there! (This is a good-natured colloquial greeting that feigns surprise at seeing someone you know, most often a friend.)
  • ppl- people


Lots More Information

Related Articles

  • Merriam Webster. "Word of the Year 2007." 2011. (Jan. 9, 2011).
  • Quinion, Michael. "Cool." World Wide Words. Aug. 26, 2000. (Jan. 9, 2011).
  • Robertson, Rachel. Personal interview conducted by Chris Obenschain. (Jan. 9, 2011).
  • Sheidlower, Jesse. "Crying Wolof." Slate. Dec. 8, 2004. (Jan. 9, 2011).
  • WebMD. "Say What? A Glossary of Teen Slang." 2011. (Jan. 9, 2011).